Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

May God's abiding love permeate your heart this day and every day to come!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Questions Than Answers...

It's generally understood that the foundational experiences we have shape the way we view life, God, people, ourselves and pretty much everything. Our early childhood frames the expectations we have of the way life works. We are forever marred and trapped by it.

Aren't we? Or, are we?

For instance, take a little girl whose father ignores her for the first three years of her life. Then suppose that this girl's father decides he's going to woo her heart, which is vulnerable because every little girl wants to be loved by her daddy. Then suppose that this girl's daddy, having won his daughter's heart, dismisses her as irrelevant shortly thereafter. All while she's three years old.

Let's factor in this girl's mother. Suppose the mother is preoccupied because her firstborn child, who is 18 months older than her daughter, is a special needs child. She is forced to expend a lot of energy caring for her eldest, all the while functioning as a single mother because her husband, who she has grown to loathe, is off traveling for business. This girl, a bright and gregarious child now at age 5, needs and wants attention from her mother that her mother simply cannot give because she's forced to divide her attention between her special needs child and her newborn. The little girl is independent enough to seem self-sufficient, though the reality is that she hears variations of "Go away" with regularity because, well, she is just a little girl who cannot fend for herself.

Add in that the home environment lacks warmth and affection, is generally filled with anger, and is run based on intellect and reason.

Snapshot: at 7 years old this girl is sexually molested by an older child, who was a friend from school.

Snapshot: at 9 years old this girl is fondled by the family dentist.

Snapshot: at 11 years old this girl becomes her mother's emotional support because, as she is told, she is her mother's only friend after a nasty divorce from a man who drove all other friends away.

Snapshot: at age 13 this girl's mother tells her, "You were always my favorite because you never needed me."

Snapshot: at age 18 this girl hears her father say, for the first time in her life, "You're beautiful."

What kind of foundation would this girl, now an adult, have for her life? What kind of lens would she use to view God, life, herself and other people? What shape would her heart be in?

This girl would probably have a pretty warped foundation. The lens through which she views almost everything would be fairly dark. It's likely that somewhere down the line she disconnected from her own heart and shifted into survival mode, turning what should be a temporary coping mechanism into a way of being. There's the possibility that life, to her, isn't really worth living and relationships really aren't worth having.

People who have experienced this sort of life might battle depression or suicidal thoughts might haunt them. People like this might be prone to self-medicating through nicotine, drugs, alcohol, or even sex.

She might not even know that her foundation is so messed up. She might not be aware that the lens through which she views everything is dark. Or she might. What if she did? What if she saw that her foundation was solidly cracked and in need of repair? What if she recognized that her vision was bad? What would she believe in her heart? How would she feel? Where would she struggle?

More importantly, what would it take for her to have that foundation remade? What would it take for her to be able to genuinely see God, life, herself and other people through a new lens? So that it's real? Deeply real? Experientially real?

What would it take to displace all of the other? Is it even possible?

What if this girl is you?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Intersection

Please check out The Intersection when you have a chance. There's all sorts of awesome stuff to be found there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Are You Ready For Christmas?

As we head toward Christmas, I thought I would post this piece, written during last year's holiday season, for your reading pleasure. May it bless and challenge you. Enjoy!

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His
name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Once, in a time and place far distant from the here and now, a promise was made. The One who made the promise was, is and shall ever be Excellent, True, Merciful, Omniscient and Omnipotent. He promised to send a Rescuer to His people. And so the people hoped.

Generations were born and died. People were conquered and taken into captivity within their own land. Time continued to pass and the people continued to hope.

They looked forward to the day the Promise would come to pass. They imagined what it would be like when the Rescuer came. They pictured a great warrior enrobed in shining garments, carrying mighty weapons, riding a powerful war steed into battle and decimating their enemies.

Hundreds of years had passed since the time the Promise was made and the people continued to anticipate the Advent - the coming of the Rescuer.

On one starlit night, in the fullness of time, an emissary appeared to an innocent young girl and declared, “The Rescuer is coming and you will give birth to Him.” The girl, while puzzled by how this could happen since she was as innocent and pure as a virgin could possibly be, accepted the emissary’s decree and rejoiced. “I am blessed among all women,” she said.

The girl gave birth to a Son. He was not born into a home of wealth or privilege. He did not spend His days enrobed in shining garments, carrying mighty weapons and riding a powerful war steed into battle. He did not decimate the people’s enemies in any predictable way. He didn’t look like the Rescuer they had envisioned.

But He was the Promised Rescuer. He came in a way that was most unexpected and did things that spoke to the people of something far greater than powerful steeds and shining robes. The Rescuer was a mystery that had been unraveled and a miracle that had been seen. He still is. He will appear again.

To the modern mind, such a story sounds rather like a fairy tale. To the Christian, it sounds like the story of Jesus.

Jesus - born to a virgin, in a manger, surrounded by straw, stench, animals and shepherds.

Jesus - grew to manhood as the child of a humble blue collar worker and lived a life of absolute perfection.

Jesus - took the transgressions of the world on Himself and paid the ultimate penalty for you and me.

During the holiday season it’s easy to focus attention on the Nativity, but many churches first spend several weeks focusing on the Advent. This season is a time where we ready ourselves to celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ birth in a manner truly reflective of who He is and what He has done for us.

Consider this: Jesus’ own people, who had waited for His arrival for many generations, didn’t recognize Him when He walked in their midst. They weren’t truly prepared for Him. In particular, the ones who should have been ready - the religious leaders of the time - didn’t see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah that He was and is. Instead of being prepared for Him, they made themselves His adversaries.

It’s a rather cautionary tale for those of us walking the earth today. So, what are we to do about it? We prepare and we celebrate.

We “make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” (Mark 1:3)

We “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

We “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

We care for those who are needy and in distress, giving joyfully and keeping ourselves unstained by the world. (James 1:27; 2 Corinthians 9:7)

We remember the angel’s words, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 10-11)

We “celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:9)

Most importantly, we remember that there is another Advent. Jesus promised to return. He is coming for a Bride who is spotless and without blemish. Furthermore, He has promised to make us that Bride who is spotless and without blemish. He forgives and cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness every time we confess our sins. He is faithful and righteous to do that, every time. (1 John 1:9)

Death, life, angels, demons, the present, the future, height, depth - nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God! (Romans 8:38-39)

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

This Week
Rejoice that the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, was born. Be grateful that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes will have eternal life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you repent and prepare for Christ’s return.

“Lord, my heart is filled with joy and gratitude for the great gift of salvation. Thank you so much! Please, grant that I would, by the power of the Holy Spirit, live repentantly and be prepared for Your return. Amen.”

See original post on the Words of LIFE site.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Life in Paradox (Part 3)

God: "Just be yourself and don't worry about it."
Me: "What? What did you say?"
God: "Just be yourself and don't worry about it."
Me: "That is not helpful."


I'm a curious sort of person. By that, I mean I can get inquisitive. When I am on a roll, I ask questions and ponder and dig and ask more questions and do more pondering and then, well, dig some more.

Several years ago, I asked God how He sees me. He showed me a white bulldog puppy, adorned with a very big pink bow, whose attention was focused on a chew toy. That puppy was tenacious about the chew toy. She would gnaw on it then lay down for a nap, keeping one paw on the chew toy while she napped. Then she would get up and pace circles around the chew toy, paw it for a bit then gnaw some more, then she would lie still for a while and stare at the chew toy. Over and over again.

After objecting to the great pinkness of the bow, I had to laugh because that is an accurate portrait of how I get when I'm into something. Bulldoggedly tenacious. Until I get bored, that is. When I get bored with something then time's up. I lose all interest.

I'm that way with the online world. I find a website and look around to see what I can see. I click on available links to see where they lead. One never knows what will be discovered by following links. That's how I found my online tribe.

I'd discovered a networking site affiliated with Ransomed Heart Ministries and made some connections there. While doing that, I found a link on someone's page and followed it. That led me to an online group of people, a tribe.

The tribe's description was enough to make me stand up on the inside and shout, "YES!!" I had been looking for a group of people like this for years.

Here's the tribe's description:

* You are desperately & authentically in love with Jesus.
* You have gone "all in" with God--fully surrendered, fully engaged.
* You will not let him go. Period.
* You know Grace.
* You have experienced supernatural transformation.
* You have transcended all the petty and ridiculous lines of division in the Church.
* You hate religion--more specifically, the religious spirit.
* You befriend--and do life with--non Christ Followers.
* You know God has called you into a Larger Story, a bigger and much scarier life, and you have said yes.
* You will do anything he asks of you.
* You are committed to the dual ambition of ever-deepening intimacy with God and to the bold expansion of his Kingdom in the world.
* You know that this is war.
* You ache with the beauty & wonder & majesty of life...and see the glory & splendor God has woven into every human soul.
* You want to join with others who have crossed the line from "safe" Christianity into the realm of the Dangerous, Radical Free.

After much internal debate, I decided to join the Dangerous Radical Free tribe.

It has been a gift to me. Connections made on the DRF site led to Facebook connections and Twitter connections. Online relationships have translated into real-world relationships. I've enjoyed wonderful phone conversations and have met tribe members face-to-face.

None of it has been easy.

It's a lot easier to show up as myself in the online world. I don't see the widened eyes and flared nostrils of someone whose toes I might have accidentally stepped on. I don't see the glazed look of incomprehension that shows up when I say something that makes complete sense to me but which nobody else gets. I don't see the offended glare of someone whose nose gets out of joint when I leapfrog over their thinking process to reach a conclusion about something. There's a kind of anonymity that comes with online connections, so I feel safer being authentic there.

I have trust and rejection issues. Sizeable ones. Stepping out and connecting with people, showing up as my real self, taking online connections offline...all of it is pretty scary to me.

Still, God told me at the beginning of the year to be myself and not worry about it. I'm doing okay with the being myself part. Not great, but okay.

I'm not doing so well with the "don't worry about it" part. I do worry about it. I worry that I'll do something or say something incredibly stupid. Or maybe I'll cross the line with someone and not realize it until it's too late. Or I could hurt someone's feelings. Or I could...

There are lots of things I could do wrong if I show up as myself. But I've been doing it anyway, even though I constantly second-guess.

Part of "doing it anyway" is showing up at a home church that meets in Austin every other week. Some of the group's members are also members of the DRF tribe. That's how I got involved with them in the first place. DRF to Facebook to the offline world.

It costs me to meet with this group of people. It's a three hour trip from here to there. But it has been worth it.

This group of people has made me feel welcomed and wanted. I don't often feel welcomed and wanted, so it's a big deal to me. They really seem to care about what's going on in my inner world, even when I don't want to share. They're willing to press past my defenses to get to the real me. I'm learning to feel safe in this group. I'm learning that it really is okay to just be myself.

In a previous post I mentioned how God loves me too much to leave me alone, trapped in a life of isolation and darkness. I can see His fingerprints on the connections I've made with this group of people who have welcomed me into their homes and lives.

I also mentioned how Satan has a plan for my life, a plan to keep me trapped in a life of isolation and darkness.

I didn't recognize it until recently but every time I'm about to make the trip to Austin all of the insecurities I battle rise to the surface. All of my fears and rejection issues come alive, screaming at me to stay hidden. Then, once I've gotten home from a trip, it all comes back again. Fear rises up, shouting at me that I'm crazy for doing this, announcing that the people with whom I just spent considerable time are going to reject me because rejection is inevitable. Everything I did or said that could be taken in a negative light traipses across my inner screen, taunting me.

It's a freaking war zone.

Today I spoke with someone who asked me why I still struggle with the "don't worry about it" part of God's instructions. That "why" question hadn't even entered my mind until she asked. I was too busy focusing on the "just be yourself" part.

While I think there are several answers to the "why" question, there is one answer that stands out the most.

It IS a war zone. Satan still has a plan for my life and will work to fulfill it, just like God is working to fulfill HIS plan for my life. Looking at it from that perspective, I can see that all of the doubts and fears and wounds I have are targeted by the enemy of my soul. He punches them, hard, trying to undermine what God is doing in my life. He throws thoughts at me, hoping I'll believe them and take them as my own. He stirs the pot, working on my emotions, trying to cause me to crater into despair.

I've cratered before. It wasn't pretty. I'm still cleaning up the mess that was made when that happened.

Satan knows this. So does God. So do I.

So, what is the best thing I can do with all of the above?

I can just be myself and NOT WORRY ABOUT IT! I can accept the love and community that is offered by this wonderful group of people with whom I've connected. I can recognize that this life is a war zone and everyone is broken. I can celebrate the fact that, in the midst of all the fear and torment and heartache and crap, God's love is real and true and bigger than anything else.

So, maybe I do feel feelings of darkness. Maybe I get scared, really scared, every time I am going to let down my boundaries and show up as myself. Maybe I am scared that I'll get hurt, or feel rejected, or embarrass myself.

All of those feelings are real. But they are not necessarily true.

The truth is this: I can step out in all of my broken, messy, quirky, weird, obnoxious splendor and there are those who will genuinely embrace me. The broken, messy, quirky, weird, obnoxious stuff doesn't make me less acceptable. It makes me human. There's beauty in the mess.

That's why I can, in spite of what feelings show up, just be myself and not worry about it. I may not do it well, but that's not really the point. The point is that I'll do it.

That's the paradox - beauty in the mess.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Life in Paradox (Part 2)

Shadow: A definite area of shade cast upon a surface by a body intercepting the light rays; the dark image made by such a body

Mission: A sending out or being sent out with authority to perform a special duty

Shadow Mission: Satan's plan for a person's life

I've previously blogged about The Destiny Project's impact on my life. It has been a huge catalyst for me and 2009 has been a key year. But I don't believe I've discussed my shadow mission, which I identified as part of my journey through The Destiny Project. I call it "my" shadow mission because it is the enemy's plan for my life and, well, I owned it.

I'm making some basic assumptions here about you, my readers. I assume that you choose to believe in God. That you choose to believe He loves you. That you recognize that we have an enemy older than time, Satan, whose great delight is in destroying everything God created, especially humankind. That you choose to believe that Jesus went to the Cross, died and was resurrected, thereby taking care of the world's sin problem for us. We can hang onto our sin problem and try to deal with it ourselves, try to be righteous on our own by doing good things and trying to be good people, or we can let Him clothe us with His righteousness. Basic Christian gospel stuff.

By the way, Jesus doesn't leave us any middle ground here. He's either exactly who He says He is - Emmanuel, God Almighty with us, LORD and Savior - or He's nucking futs. If He's nucking futs then nothing He says has any worth. If He's exactly who He says He is then, well, what He says about us and life and the world is absolutely true whether we believe it or not. He leaves it to us to decide whether we believe Him or not.

I became a Christian in July of 1988, though at the time I had no idea what it meant. It's probably just as well that I was clueless because, had I known all the heartache and anguish I'd walk through ahead of time, I might have said "No, thank you. I've suffered plenty already so I'm not about to set myself up like that by deliberately choosing the path of thorns. There's nothing you can say to me that will convince me it's worth it."

See, I wasn't raised to believe that God is a Person. I was introduced to the idea when I was in college. Only after praying the prayer and saying "yes" to Jesus did I discover such concepts as sin and redemption. Even then, I had a hard time understanding God's love. I still do. I still don't get it. Not really.

I mean, c'mon...why would I? Love, to me, has been distant and chilly and painful and a tool for manipulation. "I love you," have been nice words with little staying power. While there might be some nice emotion attached, they don't deeply impact my life or help me much. When I have loved, I've reaped more heartache than anything else so why would I want to go there? Why would I think it's worth it? Why would I think it's reciprocal, when it feels like my love is very rarely returned? What good does love do? People say, "I love you," then walk away and I'm left to deal with stuff on my own. If I need help, I have to beg for it. Unless, of course, I'm seeing a counselor or someone like that and they claim affection for me. But then, I'm paying them. They get money in exchange for dealing with me and my crap. That knowledge always leaves a little doubt about the genuineness of their affection. It feels like having a Rent-A-Friend.

That's a pathetic paradigm but it's been mine for a long time.

It makes a certain amount of sense that God would be proprietary about us, humankind. It's an ownership thing. He made us therefore nobody else gets to decide what happens in our lives, nobody else has the right to make those decisions or mess with us. He's the Potter and we're the clay. Who are we to think we can protest what He decides? Right? He made us and He owns us, even if we don't like it. What we like is irrelevant. What we think is irrelevant. What we feel is irrelevant. He's God and we're not. Love doesn't really enter into it much. At least, that's the thinking here. But it's subconscious thinking. It's an undercurrent that impacts conscious thinking in a decidedly negative way.

It's also a way of thinking that plays nicely into my shadow mission.

Three things come out of The Destiny Project - an identity statement (who I am in the world), a mission statement (what I'm all about in the world) and a shadow mission (Satan's plan for my life).

My mission statement is fairly succinct. "To warm others and create a safe space where they are free to be who they were born to be." Nice, huh?

My identity statement is verbose, as far as identity statements go. At least, that's what I've heard. "I am Arwen, daughter of the Lord, full of grace and splendor; I am Galadriel, who sees what was, what is and what may be, who will not leave those who are weak without defense; I am Boudicca, who goes to war for her people, fiercely battling and taking no prisoners; I am the radiant, illuminating fire that enflames and enlivens to freedom."

My shadow mission is longer than either my mission statement or my identity statement. "To survive by being coldly detached, strong and unbendable, filled with self-loathing, seeing all the desires to relate and connect and be warm and loving and enthusiastic as weaknesses to be utterly eliminated. To be solitary, seeking power because love is a lie. To operate solely out of a calculating and cunning intellect, with no heart. To be a machine, manipulating others to do my will. To be in utter and absolute control of myself, completely obliterating any vulnerability. To kill any desire to be loved, because the desire to be loved is my enemy just as the desire to love is my enemy. To be god in my own life, so that I am my everything, I am all that matters, because there is nobody else to whom I will matter, ever. To believe, with everything in me, that I am and always will be on my own, and to build my life based on that completely, eternally unalterable reality."

The thing about my shadow mission is that it was far more than just an annoying shadow that bothered me like so much background noise. My shadow mission had been both my identity statement and my mission statement. I'd pursued being that person. I'd embraced it. It's who I thought I was supposed to be. It's who I wanted to be. That girl wouldn't get hurt. She wouldn't get played. She wasn't a doormat and she wasn't a victim. She wouldn't let anyone get close enough for her to get molested, or emotionally raped.

So what if she was lonely? So what if she was starved for affection and genuine human warmth? It was better than the alternative.

I believed all of the above even after saying "yes" to Jesus. I just didn't know it. Not really. I might have had a passing thought about it, but it wasn't something I'd truly recognized for what it is - a trap and a lie from hell.

Here's the clincher - God loves me too much to leave me there. Jesus simply won't leave me alone, even though the idea of loving and being loved scares me no end. I had said "yes" to Him, and that's something He takes very, very seriously.

To be continued...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Life in Paradox (Part 1)

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way..." (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)

Sometimes, it really feels this way. Sometimes, it feels as though life is made of polar opposites vying to occupy the same place in space and time.

Earlier this year, I thought I had discovered my tribe. My peeps. A group to which I could genuinely belong and not fear what would happen if I showed up as myself.

I have good reason to fear showing up as myself. I've done it before and lived to regret it. I'm sure I'm not alone in having had this kind of experience. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I started at a very young age.


Here's some backstory...

A gregarious, curious, talkative little girl of about five years old who hears consistent variations of "Go away, you bother me," from the key people in her life is going to start believing that who she is is unwelcome.

At age six, most nights she lies in bed crying herself to sleep and wondering if anyone would even notice if she died. How would her mom and dad react to her lifeless body? Would they just shrug it off? Would they be relieved that they don't have to deal with her any more? After all, the message they have spoken into her life is one that says, "Go away."

Her parents divorce when she was 11-years old. Her dad, who hadn't wanted anything to do with her beyond a very short span of time when she was 3-years old, now says "I love you," and tries to woo her to his side as he wages war against his former wife. The girl is smart, and knows how to take advantage of that. She doesn't believe any words of affection that come from her father, but she'll let him take her to get her ears pierced since that's what she wants and her mother is adamantly against it.

Her mother, who had so frequently been detached and focused elsewhere, now turns to her for emotional support, saying, "I have nobody else to lean on." At least, now, her mom sees her and needs her. It's better than hearing, "Go away," even though she's still just a child.

Jump forward into the junior high and high school years and this little girl has grown into a chameleon. She knows how to interact with all of the cliques but she doesn't belong. She goes home from school and it feels like running into invisible walls. All the pain from early childhood has turned to anger. She acts out, pushing and pushing, just to get some sort of honest reaction. Her mother looks at her, coldly saying "Well, if you can't positive attention you'll take negative attention."

Almost anything is better than being invisible. Almost...

When she is older, she'll find herself in the role of the mediator between her parents, and between her brothers and her parents. She does it because she can, because someone has to and because she's learned how to look at things from others' perspectives. What she thinks, feels and believes is irrelevant. She knows this. She's known this for a very long time. She's learned to live inside her own head and how to hide her true self; not completely but more than enough to survive.

Factor in the sexual molestation she experienced at the hands of an older child when she was about 6 or 7-years old, and then the fondling by the family dentist when she was 9-years old.

Tell me, would such a child, have any real understanding of what belonging, being welcomed and loved in this world is like? Why on earth would she want to show up as herself in her own life and in her interactions with others?

Yeah, I'm that child. I'm that girl.

I am going somewhere with this, so please be patient.

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Courage and Cowardice

Over the past couple of days I've been seeing a theme emerge in the Facebook and Twitter posts of people I follow online. The theme is courage.

We need courage to live. There are so many things in this life that can make us fearful. Just a cursory look at the evening news can be disheartening because there are so many negative things happening around our cities, states and nation. The economy, unemployment, the crime rate... I just saw a quick blurb about a 12-year old who had been robbed. That's right, a 12-year old. A child. Robbed. Who would rob a child? It's crazy and scary.

Seemingly easy things, too, like beginning a new friendship, can cause the heart to shrink in fear. All sorts of thoughts race through the mind. What if this person rejects me? What if this person isn't who he/she seems to be? What if this person ends up stabbing me in the back? What if I fail him or her?

If we let it, fear can relentlessly dog every step we take as we go about our lives. It can be like an emotional or psychological vampire that leaves us merely existing, like we become undead ourselves.

I know a bit about this from personal experience. While I haven't been robbed recently, I have had enough experience with being rejected, betrayed and deceived to make me afraid of people and relationships.

I've been teased by work associates for being antisocial. I prefer to call myself selectively social. The reality is that people scare me. I tend to see the potential for harm as much greater than the potential for good.

Sad, isn't it?

I can do the buddy thing, to a point. In theory, that's fairly easy because buddies don't really invest a lot in each others' lives. You hang out and shoot the breeze then, when the hanging out and breeze shooting is done, you go home with your inner world safely untouched because you only showed up as a small part of who you really are. It's relating, but it's safe relating because it doesn't go very deep.

I can only do the buddy thing to a point because I get really impatient with how shallow it all feels. I mean, if we're not going to show up as who we really are, in all of who we really are, then why even bother? If it's just about being entertained then I can watch a Jeff Dunham DVD in the solitude of my own home and laugh at Achmed the Dead Terrorist or Peanut and forgo being concerned about whether my sense of humor unnerves someone. That would feel more honest to me.

My dilemma is that I truly, in my heart of hearts, don't believe it's about being entertained. In my heart of hearts, I believe that it's about real connections with authentic people showing up in the totality of who they are.

That scares me. I scare me. I fear that I'll make someone so uncomfortable he or she will close off and their personal walls will come crashing down - SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! Or I'll get that glazed look that comes over a person's face when he or she neither comprehends nor cares to comprehend whatever it is I'm saying. Or I'll show up and simply, profoundly not belong.

Have any of these scenarios actually played out in real life? Oh, yes. Yes. They have. More than once or twice.

So...I'm admittedly scared of people.

I also hate cowardice. I saw plenty of cowardice growing up - the refusal to honestly admit something or deal with difficult, emotionally charged issues with a fully engaged heart. I hated it. I do not want to be the sort of person who just glosses things over or refuses to see what's true just because something is hard.

In addition, I learned to disconnect very early on. I spent more than 30 years disconnected from myself which, unsurprisingly, made it easy to stay fairly disconnected from everyone else. It's hard to deeply connect with someone when you're not really present in your own skin.

Reconnecting to myself was hard and took a lot of work. Connecting to others is harder still because, while I can't leave me, others can leave on a whim. They have and, in all likelihood, will. I hate that, but it's reality. Facing that glaring reality makes me want to hide.


I do not want to be a coward.

However, as I look back over the past few years, years which saw me crater into such a deep depression that I put myself on medication after experiencing multiple betrayals and the sudden death of a loved one, I see that I have become a coward.

So I'm torn. On one side of the coin is my fear of people, of relationships, on the other is my powerful dislike of my own cowardice. And, honestly, I occasionally wonder if I just suck at relationships. Is it that I'm just someone who is so bad at them that the natural result is inevitably going to be rejection or betrayal simply because it's me? I don't think so, but the question still shows up.

In spite of it all, I'm sensing hope grow. Seeing the Facebook and Twitter posts about courage encourages me. Maybe I'm reading more into them than is actually there. At this juncture, I don't care if I am.

I'll take hope, and I'll take courage, where I can find them. I need them.

Don't you need hope and courage, too?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Caught In A Storm

You say you're close, but I can't feel your embrace.
You say you delight over me, but I can't see your smile.
You say your love is everlasting, but I don't feel your presence.

If I am too small to reach you, and you won't pick me up, then why wouldn't I feel orphaned, widowed and estranged?
Like a baby in a crib, crying to be held and comforted and loved, whose parents turn their backs and walk away, she knows no comfort.

If what I experience of you is fleeting then how can you expect me to know closeness?
Or intimacy?
Or warmth?

How can you expect me to know love or kindness or hope when there's always something between me and you, or even me and someone else?
Something that cannot be easily breached?
Something few dare attempt to breach or even approach?
Something dark and fierce and cold.
It has a name. Mistrust.

How can I know love or hope or faith if I cannot be touched?
How can I be captivating or beautiful or anything good if I am not pursued? Embraced?
The beautiful ones, the captivating ones, the good ones...they are pursued and embraced.
They are wanted.
They belong...

Not I.
I don't really know what that's like.
I don't recognize it.
It is a glamour.
It entices.
It teases.
It promises delight and delivers emptiness.

I know orphaned.

You say, "I love you."
I hear nails screeching down a chalkboard, fraying the senses.

You say, "You are precious to me."
I hear words, words, words wordswordswordsWORDS...

You say, "Trust me."
I say, "Why should I? How can I? I don't know how..."

You say, "Let me show you."
I say, "Go for it..."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dead Weight

My heart has been stirring in me for a while now, directing me toward a big move. This will be the biggest move I've made since graduating high school.

I grew up in the Houston area. After high school, I moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to attend college. I've been here ever since.

For the past few months, I've been feeling the pull to relocate to a new city. This means a new job, a new place to live and a completely new life. It's particularly challenging because I'm not one to just up and leave.

I've worked for the same organization for 19 years. I've been in the same apartment for 16 years. During the course of my time here I've accumulated stuff. A lot of stuff.

This week I started the process of downsizing. I'm giving stuff away to friends or donating it to Goodwill. Some of the stuff might be considered valuable.

I had a bunch of etched glassware that I gave to a friend. She asked me if the pieces are antiques. I think, since the pieces are at least 70 years old, that etched glassware might be considered antique by some. I don't really know. I don't really care.

I do know that, regardless of how old these pieces might be, they're just stuff.

Really, they're just items. Things. I don't really need them.

There's a difference between what I need and what I want. Most days, I forget that.

So, now I'm in the process of downsizing. I simply don't know what to do with some of the things I've been keeping. Old slides, photos and yearbooks, where the only people who might have some emotional attachment to them are dead.

The question that comes to mind as I process through things is this - When does it become dead weight?

I'm admittedly at the early stages of recovery from being a packrat. The easy way is to hang onto stuff. It's also a bit lazy, I suspect. Just put it way and don't think about it.

The problem with being a packrat is that, eventually, a time will come when the hard work of cleaning house is necessary. We can't spend our lives lugging around things that have been passed down from earlier generations. A lot of it proves to be dead weight.

This is true of emotional and attitudinal things, as well. Downsizing takes work, particularly if it hasn't been done in a while. But I don't think we can live in freedom without it.

As you look at your life, what are you hanging onto that's become dead weight?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Escaping the Comparison Trap

Here is a sneak peek at the devotional I wrote for work this week.

"But we all, with unveiled face,
beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
just as from the Lord, the Spirit."
(2 Corinthians 3:18)

Julia questioned the quality of her faith. She saw others who were comfortable doing and saying things with which she was not yet at ease. Even though, by her own admission, she had been growing in her love of scripture and intimacy with God, she felt pressured to be in the same spiritual place as others in her church.

To Julia’s mind, they were “better Christians” because of the way they expressed their faith in Jesus.

“It’s not a contest,” I told her. “You are not them and they are not you. You are unique in all of creation, just like I am. Every person is a distinctive individual. You have strengths and weakness, just like they do. Your relationship with the Lord and how He works in your life is going to be one of a kind because He made you to be you, and no one else. Really, it’s not a contest!!

God made each of us to be utterly unique. However, we often evaluate our spiritual growth and ministry by what we see in the lives of others.

The Apostle Paul discussed the marvelous variety of gifts and ministries within the Body of Christ in his first letter to the Corinthians. “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

As Paul noted, all of the gifts, ministries and effects come from God. It is God who does the work in the Body. It is He who does the work in us individually, as well.

It is very easy to fall into the comparison trap. It takes little effort to see someone else, whose gifts or ministries seem more prominent or evident than ours, and assume that they are more spiritual or mature. We feel like we must compete, but it’s difficult to love someone with whom we are a rival. That sort of rivalry drives a wedge between people.

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul took them to task for divisions that had appeared amongst the people. They fell into the comparison trap and were arguing about who was following whom. Some were saying, “I follow Paul,” while others were saying, “I follow Apollos!” Paul told them, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6)

The reality is that growth comes from God. Jesus emphasized this principle for Himself when He said that He could do nothing by Himself, and that the Father’s work was done through Him. (John 5:19, 14:10)

Jesus also talked about this in the Gospel of John where He described our relationship with Him as branches on a vine. That connection is what causes the growth. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. We cannot grow, which is necessary for the production of fruit in our lives, if we are disconnected from the vine. The production of fruit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control - is what indicates growth and maturity in a believer. That fruit is what gives glory to the Lord.

When we redirect our focus from connecting with God to what our lives look like in comparison to others’, we lose the life-giving, growth-creating branch-to-vine connection that is essential to spiritual life. We start withering on the vine because we have stepped into a place of rule-keeping where we are measuring ourselves by an incorrect standard, we stifle freedom, and we are no longer allowing the life of the vine to grow us. We’ve traded the freedom of the life of Christ for something that cannot nurture or sustain us.

Our salvation and spiritual growth are gifts we experience because we place our confidence in Christ. We don’t even come to Him, or love Him, without Him wooing our hearts with His love. This leaves no room for boasting or pride, both of which are byproducts of the comparison trap.
Jesus tells the story of a farmer who planted seed as an illustration of the Kingdom of God. The seed sprouts and grows, but the farmer does not understand how it happens. “The earth,” Jesus says, “produces the crops on its own.” (Mark 4:26-28)

The farmer may have created an environment that was healthy for the crops to grow, but he did not cause that growth to take place. The same is true for spiritual disciplines, such as scripture reading and prayer.

While we can cultivate a healthy spiritual environment in our lives, we cannot make ourselves grow. Only God can do that.

Once Julia took her focus off others and redirected it to the Lord, she was able to genuinely recognize the growth she had been experiencing, and felt a freedom and joy that had been missing. Her doubts faded away as she truly saw how God had been working in her life, cultivating and growing her as only He can.

(The complete devotional will be available at

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Some Thoughts

I haven't been blogging much this summer. I haven't really wanted to since I think, generally speaking, blogging should be an encouraging thing.

I confess, I've been trying to battle through some deeply entrenched...well, "crap" is probably the most honest word. I've been feeling a lot of frustration and restlessness with life and am not sure what to do with everything I've been feeling. Part of me wants to discard everything I've built over the last 19, such as it is, and go somewhere fresh and new. Part of me wants to hunker down and ride the restlessness out until it fades and everything goes back to normal.

I've been here before. I've been restless and frustrated with life before. I rode it out, which is why I've been at the same organization for 19 years. I have to be practical, after all, since I'm the only one providing for me. Of course, since I am only providing for me I could up and go elsewhere if I so chose.

I'm not sure where I want to go, though there is one place which has my curiosity roused. I'm even less sure what I want to do, though I know I want it to matter.

Today, two icons of my youth died - Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson touched generations with his music and dancing, setting industry standards in the process. I remember wanting to be just like Farrah Fawcett when I was a girl - beautiful, free and beloved. Millions of people are in mourning at their loss.

Death tends to put some things in perspective.

Maybe I will follow my curiosity further, just to see what else is out there...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cultivated Neutrality

Cultivate - to nurture (synonym: foster); to form and refine, as by education.

Neutral - belonging to neither kind, not one thing or the other; of or relating to a particle, object, or system that has a net electric charge of zero; a position in which a set of gears is disengaged so that power cannot be transmitted

Neutrality - tolerance attributable to a lack of involvement (synonym: disinterest)

I've had the idea of cultivated neutrality simmering in the back of my mind for a while now. Initially, it seems like a positive thing.

A person with cultivated neutrality can go into a new situation, so she can see what's truly there and make an honest evaluation with no preconceived notions or biases. When meeting new people, this cultivated neutrality can be an avenue through which a person is willing to experience the whole of another person's presence and absorb the experience without knee-jerk reactions, so that the experience can be processed at a later time. This is a definite plus.

The flip side of that is how the other person might experience one who maintains this place of cultivated neutrality throughout their interaction. It's rather like reading a book where only a very short introduction is written. The rest of the book is blank, so there's nothing for the reader to experience. The danger here is that, when experiencing the presence of a person who stays neutral or when interacting with a neutral person in a new situation, others might have an instinctual need to withdraw or pull themselves back because the presence of the other person is felt negatively, as though he or she is not truly present. Interacting with a neutral person can feel like dealing with a facade.

The person who has cultivated neutrality runs the risk of being experienced as disengaged.

It is interesting to note that in physics neutrality is when a particle has a net charge of zero. There is no energy. Interesting, too, that it is a position in which a set of gears is disengaged so that power cannot be transmitted. If gears are disengaged, and power cannot be transmitted, there can be no forward movement.

People are not neutral by nature. This neutrality has to be cultivated. If you observe children, they are anything but neutral. Energy is a child's trademark. Curiosity is a child's trademark, as is engaging with their world and the people around them.

Cultivated neutrality can be a safe place. It seems to me that it's a safety device, or a self-defense mechanism, that an individual cultivates as a response to having been hurt. Particularly if a person homesteads in that place of cultivated neutrality. It also seems to me that a person who has cultivated neutrality, and insists on making that her primary mode of experiencing life, has hobbled herself by choosing to maintain non-involvement.

Life is not neutral. Life CANNOT be experienced if a person is non-involved. Life can only be observed from that place.

There are times and places when, I think, we all step into that place of cultivated neutrality. The question is whether we stay there.

Where have you cultivated neutrality in your life? What would it take to reengage in the situations and relationships where neutrality has become the foundation?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Stench of Authority

Earlier this week a co-worker came to me for help. There was something that he needed taken care of and, though he'd tried other avenues, he hadn't been able to accomplish what was necessary so he came to me. This happens fairly regularly.

There are a couple of things that people laughingly say when they call me about something. The first is, "I'll ask Michelle because she knows everything." The second is, "I'll ask Michelle because she'll make it happen."

Today the co-worker who had asked for my help came to me, appreciative because I'd done, with relative ease and speed, what others had apparently been unable to do. All it had taken was a phone call from me, some instructions for him, and he got what he needed handled. I told him that I'd been glad to help, and that it hadn't been difficult. His response was to laugh and say, "That's because everyone fears you. You have the stench of authority!" I joked with him about being stenchy, but his comment gnawed at me for the rest of the day.

There was a time when I was dubbed "Supreme Commander" by a manager in my department. It was done tongue-in-cheek because, really, I'm no one's commander. The reality is that I've worked hard to become the sort of person who refuses to be intimidated. Nobody likes to feel intimidated, and I just learned to suck it up and stick to my guns when necessary. I refuse to be impressed by titles or position, or any of the things that turn usually intelligent people into squealing teenage girls. It's not that the emotions aren't there, because I'm wired as a highly emotional person. It's a matter of choosing the sort of person I want to be, which is strong and brave, and determining to look at others as mere mortals who are no better and no worse than I am.

Who I have chosen to be looks quite different from the outside than it does from the inside.

The truth is, I don't want to be feared. I want to be loved. Being needed for what I can accomplish is nice, but I'd rather be wanted for who I truly am on the inside.

Cultivating a character that is strong and brave has been a double-edged sword.

Looking at it from one perspective, I'm competent and efficient and will get the job done. It's earned me the trust of my boss. It's placed me in a position of leadership and authority. Whether I do or do not see it as my authority, which I don't, it's a mantle I don every day. Turn that over and, truth be told, it's a mantle I never consciously sought. It's a mantle that I don't really want, but it goes along with the job I do. It helps me help others.

I wonder how true this is of others, who are in far greater leadership roles than I. I wonder if, perhaps, some of the weaknesses I see in those in leadership roles is due to the fact that they've taken the mantle of leadership as their own instead of wearing it on behalf of others.

I've been in the presence of many, many individuals who are leaders and people of authority. There are things that I've seen that break my heart - attitudes of entitlement and subtle arrogance. Attitudes that have been fed by those around them, whose voices ring with admiration and even awe. "You are our leader!! We follow you!! Tell us what to do, how to live, who to be!!"

These leaders are just people, like you and me, whose hearts hunger to be loved and wanted for who they really are.

It's a hard, unkind thing to put another person on a pedestal. They might fall off it and get broken into many small pieces. Everybody suffers when that happens

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sharing the Joy

Please allow me a moment to laugh at myself.

As previously posted, the last time I took the MBTI my results showed that my personality type is that of an INTJ. INTJ means Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging person. This personality type is called The Scientist.

However, since 2009 began, God has been doing a lot in my life. And I do mean a LOT!

First, my heart was stirred to join a tribe of people whose hunger for life is similar to mine. We hunger for a dangerous, radical and free way of being. This is an awesome group of people who realizes that it's far more about who we are than what we do, because if we're really authentic then what we do will reflect that.

Next, I went through The Destiny Project. It really is as described - a transformational journey. I saw a detailed portrait of the person God envisioned me to be in a way that has turned my world upside down.

The Destiny Project launched me into this adventure of self-discovery. I'd spent 40-something years trying, and mostly succeeding, to be someone other than the real me. Glimpses were seen, but I'd been programmed from childhood to quash that highly energetic, emotional, gifted little girl so I lived out of the shadow mission. In DP language, a person's shadow mission is the enemy's plan for that person's life. Not God's.

So, as I've continued to walk out this journey of self-discovery, I decided to take the MBTI again. I followed my curiosity and laughed myself giddy at what I discovered.

I am not an introverted, thinking, judging person. I am almost the exact opposite of what had previously been indicated.

I am an ENFP. Extroverted. Intuitive. Feeling. Perceiving.

The portrait of an ENFP calls this personality The Inspirer.

An Inspirer. I LIKE it!!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Blessing in Forgetting

A friend wrote this. I think it's too good not to share, so I asked for and received permission to publish it here.

Alzheimer’s and Glory

My mother is losing her memory. She lives in New York with her husband. My sisters have homes near her, about five miles away. I live in Texas. I tell you that because I don't want to cheat anyone out of what I'm about to say. What I mean is that I know it isn’t easy, dealing with someone who has Alzheimer’s, but that my point is further away in a hope of Heavenly things. I've seen something remarkable inside this so called loss.

My mother has lived a hard life emotionally. I don't pity her or feel sorry for her. I do have compassion, though. And I think she'd rather have that than the other.

It used to be difficult to talk to her - all of those defenses up, protecting herself from being hurt. So much judgment spoken into her life, that you had to be careful what you said because, to no fault of her own, it would feel like insult and razors to her.

When I speak with her on the phone now, there is an ease about it that wasn’t ever there before. She doesn’t so much laugh, but giggles when she tells me she falls down a lot, and I tell her she has to work on her landings. Like a child she listens and if she doesn't understand she can just ask again, over and over, and not feel stupid or embarrassed, like we've been trained to do as so called - grownups. I don't hear the defensive breath being held, waiting for the slight to drop. I don't hear her wheels spinning, thinking of counter statements to wag back if she feels hurt or threatened. What I hear is a clean slate. I hear a spirit where there is no condemnation, nothing to come up and compare or feel guilty about. And it's no effort on her part. I mean, she's losing her memory. It isn't as though she's making some willful choice to not remember. And I can't help but wonder if that's what it must be like when we get to Heaven - and finally lose our memory and fully taste what it means to not keep any record of wrongs. God bless you, Mom. Thank you for revealing this hope to me. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Permission to Feel

Last night I talked with my little sister. Well, we're not biologically related but she's my little sister in every way that counts. It felt good to connect, but my heart broke for her.

She'd recently experienced the loss of someone near to her heart. Due to circumstances, she hadn't had a chance to say "good-bye" to this person and it was eating her up on the inside. She was dealing with a storm of emotions in the way she'd learned as a child, which is basically not to deal with them because the emotions she has are not considered good.

One of the reasons she's my little sister is that we're similar in many ways. I understand where she is on the road because I've been there. I'd suffered a sudden loss where I didn't have the opportunity to say "good-bye" and I had a lot of anger and guilt as a result.

It took a long time for me to process my feelings at the sudden death of my father. There were things I wish I had done or said, and I felt like I'd been a poor daughter, though I did the best I could. Telling myself, "you did your best," didn't help me deal with my feelings. I had to give myself permission to feel what I felt.

Emotions aren't bad or good, they just are. We have them. As much as we might try to control them or keep them under wraps, we really can't. They're just there. What we can do, what I had to learn to do, is give ourselves permission to actually feel them.

It might sound odd, this idea of needing permission to feel, but there are a lot of people who, like me, were taught that only certain emotions are acceptable. Or that only certain emotions are allowed to be expressed.

In talking with my little sister, I asked her if she could give herself permission to feel what she feels. I asked her if she could give herself permission to be okay with what she feels, because those feelings are real and normal. I reassured her that being okay with where she is now and feeling what's there does not mean that she will always feel this way. Actually, by giving herself permission to be okay where she is now, she's taken the first step in processing through them so she can get to the other side of them.

She told me that she hadn't even realized the load that she was carrying in refusing to allow herself to simply feel what she feels. By giving herself permission to be okay with her feelings, a weight was lifted from her that she hadn't realized she was carrying.

Have you ever been in a place where you needed permission to feel? Where did you get the permission you needed?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Gifted

Not too long ago, a friend proposed the idea that I might be "gifted" and suggested that I connect with a dear friend of hers, a life coach whose focus is gifted children and their parents. I was rather surprised to think that I might be gifted. Honestly, the idea had never entered my mind. I was used to thinking of myself as a lot of things, but never gifted.

Once I connected with Lisa, and we began to talk, I started sharing some of my thoughts and feelings with her. I didn't hide anything. I didn't hide the things about myself that I see as negatives. Her response to me was, "That's classic in gifted people."

It has taken time to adjust to the idea. As I've continued to communicate with Lisa and research what it means to be gifted I find myself becoming much kinder to myself.

Today, I was reading a couple of online articles about being gifted. I found one on the Talent Development Resources site, and the other on the Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted site.

I noticed that both articles said very similar things in their descriptions of the gifted adult. Both articles described traits of a gifted person, addressing the postive and the negative of each characteristic. One of the articles mentioned that the people on whom the article was based exhibited three of the traits discussed.

I recognized myself in both articles. Each trait described is one that I exhibit. Not one or two or three. All of them.

As I continue to research what it means to be gifted, I'm beginning to realize that the isolation I've felt my whole life, the sense of being a weird sort of freakish, high-maintenance and needy person doesn't mean that there's something inherently wrong with me. It doesn't mean I'm crazy. It means I'm gifted.

That's such a load off my shoulders. I'm still amazed by the whole thing. But I'm also sensing a freedom that is new and delightful.

So, what about you? Have you ever considered that perhaps you, too, are gifted?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Last Call: The Destiny Project

This past Thursday was the last official session of my journey through the Destiny Project.

It took a bit for me to be able to fully focus on the call. Part of that might have been because I simply didn't want the journey to end. I'd come to rely on the calls and the connections made during them. Part of the struggle for me was that I felt incredibly scattered. I felt like I was being swarmed by a bunch of insects, some were gnats and some were hornets. Adding to that, I was exhausted.

The Destiny Project is an amazing journey into discovering who, at the very core of a woman's being, she was created by God to be in this world. Out of that core identity flows what she was created to do in this world. Through this journey I discovered that I was born to warm others and create a safe space where they can be who they were born to be. I've already been doing that, which is why some of the people who open their lives to me are comfortable doing so, I just didn't realize that was me walking out God's purpose for me.

I find myself frequently encouraging others, when they feel like they have to pull back in saying what they truly think or feel, not to hide or pretend with me. Those words are easy to say. A lot of people do say them, then when the other person has let his or her guard down the truth comes out and judgment falls. Then the person who let his or her guard down regrets having trusted the one who presented themselves as safe.

In religious circles, that sort of thing happens all the time. But that's not who I am, that's not who I want to be. That's not who the Lord created me to be.

Jesus is the safest person in the universe to go to and let it all hang out. Christians should be the same way, but too often they're not.

I decided some years ago that I didn't want to be "a good Christian girl" because I've met too many who are plastic. I do, however, want to be the best Christ follower I can be. That's one of the reasons I decided to go through the Destiny Project. It is, in fact, the primary reason. I can't follow Christ well if I'm not authentically being who He made me to be.

I didn't expect the hounds of hell to come chasing after me almost every day of every week of the project. In the wonderful view of hindsight, I suppose I should have seen it coming.

The enemy of everything and everyone whom God loves, and that includes everything and everyone in all of creation, doesn't like it when people take steps toward their destiny. He certainly didn't like it when I did.

Warfare is exhausting. I spent the better part of two months in the middle of a full-scale war. The Lord was revealing wonderful things during those two months, and there was a lot of joy and amazement. What the Lord was revealing to me is big, bigger than I would have ever thought. Actually, it's still all pretty overwhelming.

The enemy set me in his crosshairs and came after me with everything he could, trying to drag me or drive me back to the place where I had lived in cold darkness and isolation. There were days when it was a very close call. There were days when I wanted nothing more than to simply curl up and die, so it wouldn't hurt so much.

Even in the last week of the Destiny Project, it was a full on battle. I still hear him whispering to my soul, telling me that it was all in vain and that the connections made throughout the journey will fail. I keep telling him to go to hell, where he belongs, and shut up.

Here's the thing - the Lord's promise to me during the final session of the Destiny Project, spoken so profoundly that it shattered something inside my heart, is that all will be well.

While I don't have the particulars of what that will look like, I do know that it's not cold darkness and isolation. I do know that it's not what I fear the most, which is being thrown away as a person and utterly abandoned. Actually, it's highly likely that it's quite the opposite.

I wouldn't have recognized that truth had I not begun and completed the Destiny Project. Knowing what I now know was worth every bit of agony and warfare I experienced throughout the journey.

The Destiny Project is powerful. It's amazing. It's full of wonder and delight. It's also not for the faint of heart. I am recommending it to every woman I know.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Strengths Finder 2.0 Test Results

A while back, a friend and fellow Destiny Project journeywoman pointed me to the Strengths Finder 2.0 test. I've taken the personality type test a couple of times, just for fun, so I was intrigued to hear about Strengths Finder.

Strengths Finder results lists a person's top five strengths. These are mine.

Shared Theme Description - People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

Personalized Strengths Insights - Instintively, you may convince certain people that a particular project or cause improves humankind's quality of life. Occasionally you persuade them of the importance of protecting the planet's resources for future generations. Perhaps you help people realize they can accomplish more good as a group than as individuals. Driven by your talents, you often are the one who helps people understand how they're linked across time, distance, race, ethnicity, religion, economic levels, languages, or cultures. You make it possible for individuals to work together. You aim to break down barriers that separate them. It's very likely that you are often instrumental in helping your teammates discover how they are linked to one another. You regularly remind them that their successes and failures are a direct result of their ability to work together. Because of your strengths, you may bring a more optimistic perspective to life thansome people do. Why? You somehow feel linked to other members of the human family. By nature, you naturally build bonds that unite different types of people who have separate and often clashing agendas. Your appreciation of everyone's uniqueness frees you to help individuals direct most of their attention to what they have in common.

Shared Theme Description - People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.

Personalized Strengths Insights - Because of your strengths, you may be happier with your life when you pause to savor your accomplishments at the moment they occur. Immediately celebrating a success sometimes means more to you than waiting days, weeks, or even months for a formal awards celebration. Driven by your talents, you may feel particularly proud of your ability to routinely produce the right outcomes. You might become a bit more optimistic with each success. It's very likely that you might be talkative in certain social situations. Perhaps you enjoy circulating from group to group. You may feel good about life when people appreciate your unreserved, gregarious, and friendly nature. By nature, you may feel better about life when you can outline all the steps of a task, procedure, or event. Perhaps some people appreciate your organized and methodical work style. Instinctively, you inspire your teammates with words that bolster their confidence. You repeatedly remind them they have the abilities to attain their goals.

Shared Theme Description - People who are especially talented in the Belief theme have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for their life.

Personalized Strengths Insights - Chances are good that you refuse to be blinded by others' enthusiasm about what is possible. You are hardwired to isolate the issues that lie ahead. Working with overly optimistic people is difficult for you. You have seen them accidentally derail more than one promising project or unwittingly sabotage more than one inventive, yet undeveloped, idea. Instinctively, you probably collect books, publications, correspondence, or public records. You seek to fully understand the fundamentals of the causes you support. You yearn to know about the circumstances that can enhance or erode your quality of life. When you feel strongly about something, you gather as much information as you possibly can. Then you pore over these materials -- that is, read them very carefully. Driven by your talents, you may be attracted to individuals whose honesty and integrity are above reproach. Perhaps you seek to penalize people who betray trust by taking things without permission. Because of your strengths, you have clearly defined principles that set the tone for your life and influence your behavior. They reflect who and what is important to you. They guide your decision-making. As a result, the people with whom you live, work and study can usually predict what you will say or do. By nature, you employ your passion for reading to collect lots of good ideas for resolving issues, fixing mistakes, or overcoming obstacles. The act of reading allows you to generate options for dealing with all sorts of predicaments -- that is, difficult, perplexing, or trying situations.

Shared Theme Description - People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

Personalized Strengths Insights - Because of your strengths, you may feel wonderful when people value your innovative ideas. Perhaps you help them envision what can be accomplished in the coming months, years, or decades. By nature, you may be viewed by some people as an innovative and original thinker. Perhaps your ability to generate options causes others to see there is more than one way to attain an objective. Now and then, you help certain individuals select the best alternative after having weighed the pros and cons in light of prevailing circumstances or available resources. It is very likely that you may pay attention to some of the things going on around you. Perhaps you listen, quiz people, read, or take notes. As you accumulate information, you might disregard what is unrelated, and pay heed to what seems important. Sometimes, the more you reflect on what you know, certain problems reveal themselves, and eventually some solutions start taking place in your mind. Then you try to select the best plan from your list of options. Driven by your talents, you might have a knack for identifying problems. You might generate alternatives for solving them. Sometimes you consider the pros and cons of each option. Perhaps you factor into your thinking prevailing circumstances or available resources. Maybe you feel life is good when you think you may be choosing the best course of action. Chances are good you recognize recurring sequences in data, events, information, or people's comments. These insights might enable you to form links between things that others cannot.

Shared Theme Description - People who are especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfactioni in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.

Personalized Strengths Insights - Because of your strengths, you consistently measure up to your high expectations when working, studying, or playing. Instinctively, you may be regarded by some individuals as a fine trainer, tutor, or instructor. Occasionally you describe yourself in these terms. By nature, you might make certain types of difficult-to-understand ideas a little bit easier for people to comprehend. Driven by your talents, you routinely give your team everything you possibly can in terms of your talent, skill, energy, knowledge, or time. As a result, you probably have little left to offer people outside the workplace or study group. Chances are good that you may have friends who come to you for guidance, suggestions, or recommendations. Topics might include situations in their personal or professional lives.

I must say, I definitely recognize myself in much of what is described in the Strengths Finder results.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Growing Up

You're a spiritual teenager...


You're about 15 years old...

What? I am??

Michelle, it's okay.



Okay. Cool!

I had that conversation with the Lord about a year ago. I had been asking Him what was wrong with me for some time before He finally answered. As surprised as I was by His reply to my persistent questions, my heart was lightened by what He said. I heard laughter in my heavenly Father's voice as He spoke, and His delight warmed me.

Technically, if we count spiritual growth in terms of chronological years, I'm a little over 20-years old. I was born again in July of 1988, at the age of 22. Five months later, I was filled by the the Spirit. What I didn't know at the time was that spiritually I was in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), and that I'd be spending quite some time there.

My background is one of occult involvement, and I had a lot that I needed to unload. As a new Christ-follower, I heard about demonic oppression but it didn't really mean anything to me because I was coming to Christianity with no frame of reference.

When asked about my salvation experience, I usually tell people I was born bassackwards - feet first. I didn't understand about sin or the need for redemption. I didn't understand anything about the Cross, or salvation, or any of the things that I came to understand and appreciate as my relationship with the Lord deepened. All I understood was that God is a Person who loves me, sees me, and wants to be known by me.

This understanding, about the personhood of God, and the love that He has for me, was utterly new. It was such a novel idea that my heart was captured. The rest of me was clueless, which shouldn't have been too surprising because I was reborn with what was tantamount to a spiritual infection.

This spiritual infection was due to the fact that I had grown up in the occult, even though the "church" in which I was primarily raised had the word "Christian" in its name. I've come to see that it wasn't Christian. Not truly. It couldn't be since, by definition, to be Christian means to accept Jesus the Christ as exactly who He claims to be - Lord, Savior, GOD. The Unity Church of Practical Christianity, in which I spent most of my formative years, denies the truth of Jesus. It's a hodge-podge of all sorts of eastern mysticism, reincarnation, spirit guides, ESP, witchcraft, and assorted other occultic practices. Nothing we were taught indicated the unique and divine Personhood of God. Factor in the reality that, as a young teenager, I actively pursued witchcraft and the power it promised and it should be no surprise that I had a lot of darkness in my soul.

So, as a newly born again Christ follower, I was spiritually infected by the malevolent forces that I had embraced while growing up. Light and darkness cannot dwell together and, though I was newly born again, those things which had taken taken hold of my sould did not automatically go away when I said "yes" to Jesus.

Paul told the Philippian church that they were to work out their salvation in "fear and trembling." (Phil. 2:12) When we come to Jesus, we're still lugging our baggage with us. I had to take ownership of my baggage before I could dump it. It had become a nasty, oozing infection that required medical intervention before it could be drained and cleansed. In other words, I needed deliverance.

Deliverance is messy, like draining a pus-filled wound. It's bloody. It hurts. But there is no shame in needing deliverance.

Consider this: In the book of Exodus, God showed the Promised Land to Israel and told the people to go take it. He told them that His angel would go with them to defeat all of those who stood in the way of the Israelites entering into the Promsied Land and making it their own.

"I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land." (Exodus 23:29-30)

I had to be ready to go through deliverance before it would genuinely benefit me. That's what I mean by saying I was in the NICU. I didn't truly start growing spiritually until the infection of my soul had been drained and cleansed, then it took time to walk out the healing process.

While I might want to leap from childhood to adulthood, and most children do want to grow up quickly, it's not good for me to do so. If you think about it, trying to be more grownup than we actually are is counterproductive to becoming a mature believer. Whenever we try to run before we have learned to walk, we spend a lot of time falling down. We get hurt when we try to take on more than we're mature enough to handle, and those wounds can hobble us if they're not properly tended. That's one of the ways people get stuck in their spiritual growth.

It doesn't help us when we find ourselves battling expectations that are placed on us about who we're supposed to be or how grownup we're supposed to be - whether those expectations are ours, our spiritual parents', fellow believers' or the church's. The Lord is the only Person whose say matters. We have to be willing to genuinely hear His voice, and do what He says, even if it is counterintuitive to what we think we're supposed to do. For me, it meant the NICU and deliverance and healing my inner land.

God took the time He needed, kept me in the spiritual NICU, until I was able to start growing in a healthy way so I could become fruitful and possess my inner land as He promised I would.

It has been a process, a battle and an adventure.

The enemy of our souls comes to kill, steal and destroy. There is nothing more threatening to him than a mature Christ-follower who fruitfully walks in wisdom and power. It's in his interests to keep us blindly stuck somewhere on the road to maturity. If he can hobble us then he can keep one more soldier of Christ out of commission.

We are to "...grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ..." (Ephesians 4:15).

So, last year the Lord told me that I was a spiritual teenager. Hearing that set me free and explained the frustration I'd been feeling. I was given hope, because it meant I was still growing up. I hadn't gotten stuck.

I am still growing up. Jesus isn't going to leave me as a teenager any more than He left me in the NICU. He started a good work in me and He'll finish what He started (Phil 1:6), while I have the pleasure of holding His hand and walking with Him.

What the Lord has done for me, He will do for you. That's His plan: For us all to grow into gloriously mature, wise Christ-followers who are joyfully and freely living and being who He intends us to be.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stepping Into A Spacious Place

For the past month, I've been walking through a process to discover the person I was born to be. This process has a name, The Destiny Project. I'm only about halfway through but what I've experienced thus far has been amazing.

My personal history isn't one where I received a lot in the way of nurturing and encouragement. As I've learned, I am not alone in this. There are a lot of others out there who, like me, have based our identities on our perceptions of others' perceptions of us. We let the world at large tell us who we are and who we are supposed to be.

As I've discovered, there is only one Person who has the right to define me, and that person is God. Who He says I am, who He made me to be, is what counts. And He wants me to come to Him with my identity questions. His love for me is so deep and full and limitless that He is willing to patiently woo me until I do turn to Him.

Getting to the place where I was willing to step out, turn to Him, and allow Him to connect me with others who can journey with me was a years long process. But get me there He did, and I am in awe of what He is revealing.

The person I've spent the majority of my life believing to be the "real" me is very different from who God says I am. I am just now beginning to see the glory He placed in me when He envisioned my life, before I was even born.

I was created in His image. So were you. That means there is a glory there, a beauty there, a power there, a life there waiting to be unleashed. I thought I already knew that, but I now know that I didn't really understand what it meant.

I've spent the past several years in a cocoon being formed into something. I've been very comfortable in that safe, warm cocoon. Safe and warm is a nice place to be, and most of us don't want to leave there. Until recently, I would have been perfectly content to stay safely cocooned in comfort and security.

This morning the Lord told me, "It's time." The cocoon is beginning to open. I've just crossed the borders into a place that is spacious and unexplored, filled with dancing light which invites me to embrace and absorb its life.

It is time, and I've accepted the invitation to steep myself in life.

I don't know the particulars of who I will be, or what my life will look like, after I've climbed out of that cocoon. I don't need to. I will find out after I've gotten there. I'll be able to look back and see far more clearly than I can when I now try to look forward.

One thing of which I am absolutely certain - it will be very, very good.

(The Destiny Project is designed for women. For more information, go to The BraveHeart Intensive is designed for men. For more information, go to